While merchants in the downtown city centers are facing declining sales volumes, Business to Consumer/B2C e-commerce has grown significantly by 14 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year. German consumers have spent 15,5 billion Euros of goods and services in 2009 over the Internet. The Internet remains the channel with the highest growth dynamics. GfK Panel Services Germany (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung = Association for consumer research Germany) has supplied those figures. The GfK Group http://www.gfk.de is one of the largest market research companies in the world. Its Webscope Panel measures all trading activities over the Internet since 2001.1)
Also for the upcoming years the prognosis for e-commerce development in Germany is extremely positive. Forrester Research http://www.forrester.com has predicted seven percent growth for the next five years. Until 2014 total sales over the Internet are forecasted to hit 44 billion Euros in the German market.2)
The German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (bvh) (http://www.versandhandel.org) prognosticated – on the basis of the representative consumer survey 2010 conducted by TNS Infratest (http://www.tns-infratest.com) that has been published in July 2010 – a total business volume for the distance selling industry of 29,9 billion for the same year, which is a plus of 2,7 percent.3) The association expects innovative technologies to further boost the development of e-commerce and secure further growth. Mobile commerce will be one of the main growth platforms, as the usage of mobile smartphones will develop to be daily routine to the consumer mass market. Other trends identified by the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association are grouponing platforms like www.groupon.de and www.dailydeal.de and online shopping clubs such as www.brands4friends.de. And also social media platforms such as www.facebook.com und www.twitter.com are starting to be used as sales channels.
But why do consumers go online at all for their shopping? Which advantages can they profit from when buying over the Internet instead of walking into a shop and be personally in contact with the vendor?
In October 2010 the consultancy PriceWaterhouse Coopers (http://www.pwc.com) has launched the results of a survey in the scope of which 1.300 households were questioned about their online shopping behavior. http://www.pwc.de/de/handel-und-konsumguter/einkaufen-per-mausklick.jhtml4)
Asked for the reason why they chose the Internet for their shopping activities 73 percent of the respondents declared the low price, 69 percent the timesavings as their main argument. For 41 percents of the respondents the large product variety was important for their decision. The availability of a certain brand played an important role for seven and substantial product information for eight percent of the respondents.
Online shopping has a number of obvious advantages: Buyers can safely shop anywhere they are – as long as they are connected to the Internet without having to leave the comfort of their home or office. No crowded cashier desks, no screaming babies, no bad smells.
By not having to drive and find a parking space or not having to walk anywhere, customers save precious time. Online shopping might also offer the cheapest prices, which can easily be compared to get the best price available on the market. The selection of goods and services on the Internet is practically limitless. Due to that fact, looking for a very specific item becomes very easy on the Internet as opposed to actual offline stores, which due to their limited storage usually only feature a small assortment. Some customers might also feel more comfortable buying certain items anonymously, e.g. lingerie.
However, consumers tend to not only use the Internet, but to engage in multichannel shopping. Despite the growing importance of B2C e-commerce, identifying customer touchpoints and engaging in integrated multichannel marketing is the basis for growth for commercial enterprises.http://www5.marketing-review.meds-in.de/index.php?issueId=1352&smart42SID=249235veu72eib37lisof8vce55)
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